A guide to your first week at SOAS as an international student

Woman giving students careers advice

Welcome to SOAS! The first few days and weeks of starting university can be both scary and exciting. But, as an international student, it can be slightly more daunting, considering you’re moving to a whole new country.

As an international student, you’re almost starting your life from scratch, But try not to worry. From one international student to another, you can do a few things to help smoothen your transition and make yourself feel more settled and confident as you embark on your journey at SOAS.

Housing

You’ve probably already got your housing sorted. If you’re staying in student accommodation, chances are your move-in date will fall in line with the start of the term or freshers week. However, if you’re staying in private accommodation, you might need to negotiate your move-in date. If it’s after you arrive in the country, you can always pre-book a hotel or Airbnb until you’re able to move in.

Get to know the area

Once you arrive, go for walks around the area you’ll be living in. Find out where the supermarkets, grocery stores and local shops are. You could even do a small food shop to keep you going for a few days. Also, look out for restaurants and takeaways nearby to give you more options whilst you get settled.

Banking

One of the first things you’ll need to do when you move is to open a bank account. This might take a bit of time because you’ll need help and documentation from SOAS. You’ll need a SOAS bank letter and your passport. If you have a student visa, you’ll also need your BRP/evidence of your visa. You can request a SOAS bank letter here.

SIM Card

Another thing you’ll need to consider when moving to a new country is getting a SIM card for your phone. Whilst you can get a temporary SIM card from your departure or arrival airport, it’s much cheaper to do it once you get to your new city. You can either order a SIM online and choose a plan that works for you or head to a store to get one.

Health

Another important thing you need to do in your first week is to register yourself with a GP. It is usually a quick process and can often be done online. There’s a good chance you’ll get ‘fresher’s flu’. It could happen for various reasons, including weather changes, different air pollution levels or interaction with more people. It’s best to prepare for a few colds, so make sure you have stocked up on some painkillers. Also, many freshers will see a bit of change in their body weight. You may end up gaining or losing some weight during your first year. Try not to worry about this too much, as it will likely be due to a temporary change in your lifestyle which will settle.

Clothing

When you start packing, try not to bring heavy jackets, coats or boots from your home country. Not only do they take up a lot of space, but they also might not be as effective in the London weather as you expect them to be (especially if you’re coming from a warmer country). It’s best to buy these types of things once you arrive. Of course, you should bring a jacket, sweatshirt or jumper to help you get through the first few days. If you’re looking for an affordable option, one place I’d recommend you look would be Primark.

Transportation

Luckily, London has amazing public transport. However, it is quite confusing if you’re using it for the first time and cabs can really burn a hole in your pocket. You should download Citymapper and the TFL apps to familiarise yourself with the routes and tube and bus times. You should think about getting an Oyster card, or alternatively, you can use your contactless bank card. Oyster cards can be bought online, at any tube station or from certain local shops.

Once you’ve settled in, make the most of all that SOAS Welcome Week has to offer – and enjoy!

Surabhi Sanghi is a SOAS Digital Ambassador, pursuing a master’s degree in South Asian Studies and Intensive Language (which also means she gets to be in London for one whole extra year). She has a background in history and is interested in the religions of South Asia. She is a dog person and her only wish is to be able to pet all the dogs in London. 

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